Gold mining in the Canadian Arctic is a challenge facing Agnico Eagle Mines Limited (Agnico), a gold producer based in Canada, Finland and Mexico, with exploration and development activities extending to the United States and Sweden.
The company has two operations in Canada’s northern low Arctic: Meliadine, which is Agnico Eagle’s largest development project in terms of mineral reserves and resources with an estimated 400,000 ounces of gold per year over a 14-year mine life; and the Meadowbank open pit gold mine, where material mined at the Amaruq satellite deposit is expected to feed its processing plant for another seven years.
Open pit and underground mining operations are a critical environment, but Nunavut’s gold mines have some additional challenges. Their remote location means that all equipment, fuel and supplies rely on a single annual delivery that arrives via shipping barge, while personnel, perishables and lighter goods arrive at the local airport.
Ensuring the safety of its employees is the mine’s number one priority and the biggest threat the workers have to face is the harsh Arctic weather conditions. During the winter, outside air temperatures can drop as low as -50C, so strict safety procedures are in place.
In addition to the risks to people, communication equipment, such as truck radios and portable radios used by outdoor workers, must withstand these extreme temperatures and cannot fail. Maintenance procedures for radios and batteries must be strictly maintained to ensure continuity of operations.
Agnico selected TETRA technology from Teltronic subsidiary PowerTrunk for its exploration and production operations to maintain efficient voice and data communications, essential to provide safe conditions for all its employees, as well as to simplify radio system maintenance and management.